Thursday August 28 2014
Italy, time to let go of Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo’s national team future remains in the balance, but Adam Scime has the ostensibly unpopular belief that a graceful passing of the baton is in order.

Rumours over Andrea Pirlo’s future with Italy continue to circulate with the latest reports suggesting the Juventus maestro could continue with the Azzurri.

Prior to World Cup 2014, Pirlo had stated that it would be his international swan song. The poignant reality of an Italy-less Pirlo would seemingly soon come to pass.

However, the team were dumped out unceremoniously in the group stage in Brazil, Coach Cesare Prandelli resigned and shortly after Pirlo expressed the notion that should Italy’s new CT ‘need’ him then he would still be available.

His on-off international retirement sparked reports that the 35-year-old playmaker would continue and those intensified when Antonio Conte, his former boss at Juventus, was appointed to the Italy hot seat.

Of course, Conte and Pirlo enjoyed an abundance of success in Turin, working together to secure three consecutive Serie A titles in the past three seasons, with the player’s performances often being a driving force in those championship runs. That Conte has left and Juventus still remain favourites for the Scudetto is based almost in no small measure on the expectation surrounding Pirlo’s continued influence even in his advancing years.

Being a veteran nearing the end of his career, further rumours began to emerge that the midfield maestro would be used on a part-time basis by Conte, only playing in important qualifiers and international tournaments. Conte himself relayed to the Press that he would be speaking with Pirlo about a possible return, describing him ‘as a point of reference’.

The former Milan star is arguably Italy’s best midfielder of all-time, with 112 caps, 13 goals and a 2006 World Cup trophy - his influence on the national team cannot be understated. He has been at the heart of many of their great performances over the last 10 years or so - perhaps too many...

It is not fair to give Pirlo preferential treatment, wrap him in cotton wool, and hope he is ready for the big matches when they come. Italy have had an issue with performances being utterly Pirlo-dependent, which is perhaps at the heart of their reluctance to see him go.

However, over-reliance on a player who, although still is brilliant in many aspects of the game, at his age will only become less and less reliable, shouts of a team afraid to go forward and a disappointment waiting to happen. Now is the right time to move on – regardless of whether Pirlo feels he can positively contribute or not.

Marco Verratti and others coming through the ranks in various positions deserve a chance to develop and show that they can shoulder the burden. The inevitable cannot be delayed forever. In the short-term a Pirlo-less Italy may struggle with a new style of play and new ideas – they will not be used to missing a staple of Italian football on the field. However, eventually transition must happen and others need to step up or at least have the chance to. Sadly, Pirlo will not be around forever.

The midfielder has done an impressive and distinguished job with the reins of Italy, his legacy is cemented, but keeping him at the forefront of the team at this point cannot help anyone. Ultimately, Pirlo will be gone and it is better to make that decision together rather than have the situation forced upon them and then have to throw players with marginalised experience into the deep end.

Pirlo is so iconic that his beard and steely looks of being unimpressed have gone viral across the world, but despite how it may have looked on some occasions, Italy is not Pirlo and Pirlo is not Italy. Change can be frightening – yet the national team and the player both need to move on so that a new cycle can begin. If they refuse to do that, the #PirloIsNotImpressed stare should be directed towards La Nazionale by the fans. The reality is – as unfathomable as it may sound to some - it’s time to let go.

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Have your say...
I think Pirlo is still an important building block for the future because of his character, example and, yes, talent. I don't agree with Scime's thought that Pirlo must go. Let's be clear. Pirlo is on his way to the end of his career. How does Conte leverage Pirlo's intangibles the next year or two for the benefit of Veratti and others in the future? This is Conte's challenge and I think he's up to it. He knows he must move beyond the past.
on the 5th September, 2014 at 3:46am
Since the World Cup victory in 2006, all of Italy's head coaches became over-reliant on Pirlo. As such, poor tactical decisions were made, where he was fielded out of position, in a more advanced role where the presence of a true attacking creative midfielder in an advanced position was needed.Needless to say we paid the price for this many times.
on the 31st August, 2014 at 2:05pm
We bench, sell or loan 18-27 year old italians and field 18-27 year old from a lottery of different nations. We have players from nations some of us didn't even know existed! I would love to know what an 18 year old african or spanish player has over an 18 old italian? At 18 unless you are something from outta space you still have lots to learn, so why teach others and not our own! 1 thing that stood out at world cup- Catenaccio- we didn't use it yet 80% of 'lesser' teams did and got further!
on the 31st August, 2014 at 9:47am
@stella d'oro, mm & marco
All your points are spot on. I can add my observations to anyone of your comments & it sums up the scope of the approach Conte must adopt to form the new La Nazionale. Yes, it is very frustrating to see gifted Italian youth overlooked & neglected by their own countrymen no less. I hold Italian citizenship as well. I should go to Italy to enter politics to restore some common sense & national pride. 'Italy' is a brand that hasn't been promoted to its full potential.
on the 30th August, 2014 at 3:39pm
Zoff1982 comment was spot on. Nothing made me happier then watching Catania with a starting 11, and bench made up of all Uruguayans, and Argentines get relegated. Napoli, Milan, Roma et al are no better. Loaded with foreigners. Only Juve who can field at least 5 Italians at any given time still plays with NT players. Hats off to Torino also. They lose an Italian to Borussia, but then sign another Italian instead of looking to South America.
on the 30th August, 2014 at 3:23pm
Agree with the article. Prilo is an all-time great of italian football, but his time is coming to an end. And with him on the pitch, the Squadra Azzurra is inclined to play with low rhythm and a lot of ball circulation. Conte should build a Verratti-centric system, with players being as fast and technically giftes as him, in other words, bring on Rossi, Mastour, Berardi, Insigne & Co.
on the 29th August, 2014 at 6:45pm
Pirlo Italy's best player for a decade, as the saying goes all good things come to an end. I hope Conte doesn't go down the Prandelli route of total over reliance on Buffon,Pirlo,Balotelli, there are other options and other decent enough players despite the poor youth system. De Sciglio,Darmian, and Veratti for me came out of the WC with most credit and all are young players, there are others out there too.
on the 29th August, 2014 at 4:08pm
@vincenzo Grella
We saw a rise in the lesser teams because most of those players play for European clubs! It highlights the problem in Serie A, to many foreigner's and not enough respect for italian youth- bright young Italian hopefuls either have to leave Italy or play in serie B. Having an elite foreigner is 1 thing but having several average foreigner's means an italian youngster doesn't stand a chance. Saponara/cristante are prime examples. Immobile and verratti have left altogether!
on the 29th August, 2014 at 2:46pm
Pirlo is one of the greats for La Nazionale. Conte has to start developing players with youth & stamina. Last World Cup, as expected, we saw lesser known national teams rise to prominence because of their youth, speed & stamina. Italy for starters has been too slow of foot. Fortunately we had Pirlo who could see the whole field & make the clever passes that stretched out the other team which sort of neutralized their speed. Italy must adjust now to compete against these kinds of teams.
on the 29th August, 2014 at 2:16am
The image of Pirlo and buffon being the 2 leaders does need to go to a degree. I do not think Germany won the cup with a couple leaders, they must of had 9 on the pitch at any given time. Not one of them would tell you they are the "leader" without crediting the coach and rest of the team. The chemistry is Conte's problem now.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 7:11pm
Conte needs to define a style, none of this im going to play each game in a different formation and never really see my teams strengths. I do not think Pirlo is a problem, the midfield is a our strength. Far from a defensive powerhouse and missing ammunition in attack. Follow Germanys example this world cup although surely they are more complete team. Some normal formation like 433 or 4231 and players who want to work for each other. Stop defining leaders and play positive as a team.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:52pm
While Verratti may not be as technically brilliant as Pirlo, he does bring high energy, pace, and fitness that Andrea does not have anymore. These qualities are very important in the modern game as well, and he should start being groomed now so he is ready for Euro '16 and the world cup in Russia.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:41pm
What is certain is that Prandelli relied on Pirlo too much. I remember Pirlo playing a full 90 minutes in useless friendlies and then playing the weekend for Juventus. This made Italy too reliant on Pirlo and if Pirlo didn't play well neither did Italy. Conte may be facing same dilemma he had at Juve where Del Piero seemed to play all the time. Conte more or less decided to eliminate ADP because of his age. Same may happen here.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:36pm
Pirlo, along side Totti, is my favorite player of all time. That being said, he will be 37 by the time Euro '16 comes along and physically he will be behind the others. Italy need to start preparing now for this, and that means passing the torch. All three CM players need to be super fit and able to press and play at a high tempo. Pirlo just cannot do this anymore. The world cup showed teams can prevent his influence with proper pressing. Sad, sad day, but one that must come.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:35pm
How is it that two of our brightest prospects immobile and veratti play abroad yet we have one of Spain's prospects in morata ready to start the season with our potential champions
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:09pm
The problem in Italy as mentioned by others is that our young players do not have enough experience... It is therefore the duty of the FIGC to set rules to get young Italians playing e.g. 3 Italians must play every 90 minutes for every Italian side... What happens first? All the big prospects get bought from the small clubs by the large ones so they can have 4 or 5 in rotation, from here it forces smaller clubs to look at their academy's and develop italian talent from here...
on the 28th August, 2014 at 6:07pm
What Italy seems to fail to realize is the discussion should not be if Pirlo is called up or not it is who are the new players that are being brought into the team? Are there no new players to talk about? Is there no thought about how to build a team for the future? As good as Pirlo has been, DeRossi, Chellini, Buffon are the past not the future. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. The last 2 wc's show your results.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 4:24pm
Pirlo elegge gli eredi: "Per il futuro penso a Cigarini e Verratti" Translation: Pirlo elects Inheritors: "in the future I think Cigarini and Verratti". He knows best and I agree.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 4:13pm
Conte must not be reliant on Prandelli's and his old Juve block as it failed to get out of the group at the World Cup and get anywhere in the champions league. Pirlo and Buffon and others must step aside let others grow. Forget about Di Natalie and Toni! Bringing Pirlo back for major games is a disaster waiting to happen. No chemistry and disillusionment of younger players! Is the end result. Pick a team to last the next 4 years!
on the 28th August, 2014 at 3:14pm
looks like its gonna be forced to happen, for now at least, seeing as pirlo is out for a month. Although i totally agree with this article and much like italy or should i say even more so than italy juve and CONTE relied way to much on him, i for one would like to see a move into another direction hell perhaps a faster more direct direction ;)
on the 28th August, 2014 at 2:45pm
All those people who scream for change must remember that it is hard to change things when the top clubs in italy all playing in European cups field squads with 1 or 2 italians in them! So it is great to see Napoli/inter/roma and juve spending a little cash but the cash is being wasted on average players who fill up a team and push the young italians further back! Milan have saponara and cristante both young both good so why essien, honda and possibly van ginkel and heaven forbid torres!
on the 28th August, 2014 at 2:34pm
Pirlo unfortunately will miss Conte first 2 games, but he is very important for the next 2 years. He is top draw. If Conte picks a 30 man squad, in my view if fit it should be: GK Buffon, Sirigu, Scuffet.
Def: Chiellini, Bonucci, Ranocchia, Rugani, Donati, De Sciglio, Criscito, Darmian, Paletta (deserves another chance) Mid: Pirlo, Verratti, Jorginho, De Rossi, Florenzi, Candreva, Marchisio, Montolivo, Romulo, Motta. For: Rossi, Balo, Destro, Pelle, Berardi, El Sha, Immobile, Zaza.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 2:22pm
Italy are at a very delicate stage her evolution and the like's of Pirlo in my opinion can help the transition to the next stage as he is still performing at the highest level and still has the desire to compete. Pirlo is vital to the stablisation of the national team after a disastourous WC and Italy need such experience & guidance to nurture the likes of Verratti, Florenzi etc. I like and agree with Conte's stance of playing him in big games only.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 2:14pm
Pirlo unfortunately will miss Conte first 2 games but is still important for the important matches. He is a class act. Verratti and Jorginho are the future. Jorginho should be called up even if he cant play till next year, to be around the team and a part of it. Youth is the key, I love Conte but hope he doesn't fall into the trap of calling and relying on a lot of the older players. Scuffet should be in ahead of Perin.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 2:10pm
mm - word!

Conte sees Pirlo's value and it is not just on the pitch. He and Buffon personify what it means to be a proud Azzurro and even his mere presence in the dressing room and on the bench is invaluable for these players who are not fully committed to the cause. Lord knows we have a few of those when the going gets tough.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 1:58pm
I would have to disagree - Pirlo is still our difference maker, regardless of his age. Therein lies the problem - assuming that youth is the answer; in certain positions, yes, youth is needed, but should never replace a virtuoso like Pirlo who is performing now with an eye towards the future. That's almost a punishment for the man.

For example consider our summer squad - who performed in Serie A last season? Toni and Totti - but they were not called up due to a vision of flawed future project.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 1:48pm
Amazing comment from conte, clears half the squad straight away; "The national team is an honour, something that has to be conquered and suffered for". I see a hand full of players that should not be in the team. Pirlo isn't one of those players. He gives 100% in every game for juve, for italy he is simple amazing, professional, a leader, a model player why would we need to let him go if he is still capable of so much. He is a positive influence and presence, unlike others.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 1:10pm
agree with the article but it's fear of the unknown that I believe worries me and others. There is no other player of pirlo's ability even if Veratti still has more potential to fulfil. However we do have to move forward and play to the strengths of the rest of the players we will have. We don't have the strongest defence that we typically do. What we do have is a number of good midfielders. We'll have to play much more as a collective than ever before and so I think conte's the perfect fit
on the 28th August, 2014 at 1:03pm
Agree that we need to move on, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen with Conte... he's already said that it will be very similar to Prandelli's Italy in terms of personnel. I honestly can't see how this can help us move forward, we will have so many 30+ players by the time the Euro's comes around in 2 years.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 12:09pm
Adam Scime is crazy!!Pirlo is still the best Italy have...
on the 28th August, 2014 at 12:08pm

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